Green hotel development is here to stay, say the respondents to a recent Lodging Hospitality survey of hotel owners, developers and managers. The study was part of a larger effort conducted last fall by publications in the Penton Financial Services Group. In all, the study invited more than 10,000 real estate developers and owners to give their views on green design and development.

Nearly half (45.8 percent) of the respondents to the lodging portion of the survey believe green building is here to stay. Another third say the future of green hotel development depends on energy costs, while less than four percent of those surveyed think green building is fad.

An overwhelming majority of respondents who say they own or manage hospitality properties say green design is important in their site selection process. Yet at present, less than half of them (47.5 percent) own or manage any hotels they consider to be green. That will change soon as 80 percent of those surveyed say they will have at least one green lodging property in the next five years. About a quarter (27.1 percent) of the developers surveyed say half or more of the hotels they own or manage five years from now will be green.

While some respondents remain skeptical about the green movement, especially the economic aspects, others embrace it, or at least acknowledge that will continue to increase in importance.

“It's past time for all of us to show respect for the earth in practical terms,” wrote one respondent. “We no longer have the luxury of ignoring the environment. Green practice is the right thing to do.”

Another developer believes a strong marketplace will be the catalyst. “In order to be competitive in the next 10 years, all development will have to be green,” said the developer. Another respondent says it's “too early in the lifecycle (for green) to make economic sense for hotels. The time will come, however, either through improved economics (lower initital costs and higher and more quantifiable savings) or through mandate (government and building code requirements).”

Presumably higher construction costs for green buildings have been one stumbling block for many developments. In fact, nearly half (47.4 percent) of respondents believe building green increases construction costs by anywhere from five to more than 10 percent. Thirty percent of those surveyed aren't sure about cost premiums for green construction, and fewer than five percent believe green development costs the same as traditional construction.

Developers who responded to the survey see the lure of green development in dollars and cents. More than 80 percent of them say green building lowers overall operating costs. About half of them believe green can give them the ability to differentiate their properties in the marketplace, and 56 percent say green building can help meet the expectations of guests.

For many lodging developers (56 percent), government incentives have at least some impact in their decisions to develop or invest in green properties. The most-often mentioned incentive developers have used is the tax break. In other cases, they've taken advantage of favorable zoning, fee waivers and sharing of infrastructure costs by local governments. A vast majority (81.4 percent) support tax incentives for owners of green buildings.

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